Whakatuora Centre – a place to stand for Maori Methodists
Though it is neither a church nor a marae, Whakatuora embodies some of the spiritual dimensions of both.
A rough translation of ‘Whakatuora’ is to enable someone to stand upright or tall. In the context of the church this means to enable people to fully develop their potential and to reflect God’s purpose for all creation. With its large efficient kitchen and stack of mattresses that allow people to use it as a whare nui, Whakatuora resembles a marae. Yet it is not a marae.
Tamaki rohe members explain that no tupapaku (body of a deceased person) is allowed on Whakatuora, so it cannot be used for tangi, one of the key functions of marae.
And Whakatuora runs on a different set of protocols than traditional maraes. It is a place where women and young people are free to stand and speak.
Construction of the Whakatuora Centre began in 1982. Initial funding for the building came from a Methodist Women’s Fellowship special objective fundraising project and from the sale of redundant church properties.
The centre was intended to serve the church and the community as a place of prayer, learning, reflection, fellowship and solidarity. The statement of purpose for Whakatuora says it is linked to the past but stands as a new venture in the Weteriana experience. It poses new ways of thinking and doing things.
“In this connection, we talk about a Weteriana kawa, or set of observances as we meet and greet each other culturally and in the faith, and share together the task and purpose of our meeting.”
Whakatuora plays an important role in the life of Te Hahi Weteriana. Hui Poari, Council of Conference, and other Connexional group use the centre as a venue for meetings. In the 1980s much of the work to establish the Church’s bi-cultural framework was done by a bi-cultural committee that met there. Community groups and families also use Whakatuora for meetings or gatherings. Most have some connection to the Methodist church or its members.
In 1989 the second phase of the Whakatuora project began. This was the construction of nine housing units, four for kaumatua (elders) and five for rangatahi (young people). The construction of the units was funded by the sale of Seamer House Hostel, a residential unit in Remuera for young women doing trade training. Auckland Methodist Mission and the Methodist Social Services Association also contributed to the cost of the flats.
The residential units are named after two figures who were significant in the life of Maori Methodists. The rangatahi flats are called Te Hiima Kainga after Father AJ Seamer, and the kaumatua flats are called Te Rorehana Kainga after George Laurenson. One of the kaumatua flats is held open to be used for short-term visitors so it is available for people visiting on business. There was a third dimension to the vision of Whakatuora which was to construct an administrative centre on the site for Te Taha Maori.